Saturday, March 14, 2009

Defiant Episcopal Priest/Muslim faces defrocking by Bishop Wolf

Note that Bishop Geralyn Wolf of Rhode Island has compassionately given the Rev. Ann Holmes Redding over a year - fifteen months to be exact - to reconsider. Looks like time is just about up. The Providence Journal reporting:
Even as a Brown University student, Ann Holmes Redding was never far away from controversy.

She was barely into her freshman year in 1968 when she joined a black student walkout to get the university to admit more blacks — a move that resulted in a near quadrupling of the number of black students to about 250 the following year.

And after students staged a strike that effectively closed down the university to show their opposition to the Vietnam War, Redding was part of a “blue ribbon” delegation from Brown that went in the spring of 1970 to Washington to talk to such alumni as White House aide Charles Colson and U.S. Sen. Claiborne Pell about ending the conflict.

But these days, as she approaches the 25th anniversary of her ordination as an Episcopal priest on March 25, Redding, who lives in Seattle, faces controversy of a different sort. She is on the verge of being defrocked by Rhode Island Episcopal Bishop Geralyn Wolf because of her insistence that she can be a Muslim and Christian at the same time.

Bishop Wolf, who is Redding’s canonical superior, has told Redding that her conversion to Islam through her recitation of Shahada, the basic Islamic creed, constitutes an abandonment of the Christian faith and that unless she recants by March 30, she will no longer be a priest.

The warning, formally issued by Bishop Wolf with the backing of the diocesan standing committee last September, has been among the communications that began in September 2007, soon after Bishop Wolf attended a meeting of the House of Bishops and heard stories about a priest claiming to be both Muslim and Christian.

Bishop Wolf recalls getting up at that meeting and saying such a stand was misguided because the fundamental teachings were incompatible. Only after returning to Rhode Island, she says, did she discover that Redding, a former parishioner at St. Stephen’s Church in Providence, had been ordained by her predecessor, Bishop George N. Hunt. Because Redding never shifted her canonical residence, Bishop Wolf is her superior.

“I had her come in because I didn’t want to rely on a newspaper story,” the bishop recounted. “I said to her, ‘This is a spiritual challenge for you to decide where you are in terms of your understanding of the Christian faith, especially Christ’s passion, and resurrection and incarnation. I want you to take some time to seek spiritual direction.’ ”

Redding had been, until March 2007, the director of faith formation at St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral, in Seattle, and was just starting a stint as a visiting scriptural scholar at the Jesuit-run Seattle University. News of her unusual embrace of Islam and Christianity had gotten into the local papers and had been warmly received by the then-bishop of Olympia, the Right Rev. Vincent Wardell Warmer, who called her move innovative.

But Redding received a different set of marching orders from Bishop Wolf, who directed her not to wear the collar or to act as a priest for one year, and then extended it for three more months.

When the bishop and priest met again last September, Redding repeated her view that she saw no conflict between embracing Islam and following Jesus. It was then that Bishop Wolf said she would begin proceedings to have her deposed.

In Bishop Wolf’s view, the moment that Redding recited the words of the Shahada, the creed that says “there is no god but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger,” she gave her allegiance to Islam and abandoned the Christian faith.

“As I understand it, Muslims do not believe in the divinity of Christ. They don’t believe in the death of Christ or that he is the Son of God, which are cornerstones of the Christian faith. Yes, there are people in every religion who try to stretch the basic tenets of a belief, but if you choose to be a priest within the Episcopal Church you are speaking for the church and its teachings. It demands a commitment.”

Reached at her home in Seattle, Redding said Thursday that unless something causes her to radically change her convictions in the next few weeks, she will “continue to be faithful to the call and invitation that God has given to me.”

She says that while she had been familiar with some of the teachings of Islam, she began looking at them more seriously after inviting Muslims to speak at the cathedral in the aftermath of 9/11.

But it was a personal crisis, one she does not wish to share, that led her, she says, to a realization that “I needed to totally surrender myself to God. Surrender to God is what Islam is about.”

She says she first recited the Shahada alone in her mother’s apartment in Pennsylvania a month after her mother died, and then in a public ceremony before several dozen members of Al Islam Center of Seattle, a largely Sunni community with whom she had been praying for six months.

“It never occurred to me I was leaving Christianity any more than the early disciples of Jesus would have felt they were leaving Judaism by becoming his followers,” she said. “It was only after the fact that I recognized it could be very confusing to many people.”

And how does Redding place herself between two faiths, one which holds that Jesus is the Son of God and another that regards Jesus as a prophet and forerunner to Muhammad but not God’s Son?

Redding, who’d like to be a bridge between the two faiths, insists that the two religions are closer than many think. The Koran, like the New Testament, teaches that Jesus was born of a virgin. She says she finds that Muslims are more firm in that belief than many Christians she knows, who seem not to be sure.

She says she continues to believe that Jesus is divine but goes on to explain that she believes there is an element of the divine in all of us. “We are all children of God.”

Read it all here.


Perpetua said...

Of course, I agree with Bishop Wolf. However, it occurs to me that Ann Holmes Redding may have a calling to bridge the faiths. Redding's ministry should be directed towards Muslims, helping them to understand that they can be Muslims and "followers of Jesus".

Floridian said...

How is that, Perpetua.
See this article at Virtue:

Dr. Alan Clifford says their god is a pagan Arabian moon god.

The fruit of the two religions are dimetrically opposite -
Jesus Christ - truth, love, life.

Moslems - lies (allowed by Koran), lust/hate, conquest/death.

The treatment of women in islam is despicable.

Anonymous said...

That the Right Rev. Vincent Wardell Warmer is a real piece of work, ain't he?

Anam Cara said...

"Redding, who has just co-authored a book, Out of Darkness Into Light, that looks at the Koran from Jewish, Christian and Muslim perspectives, says she doesn’t know how her story will end and only time will tell if she is wrong in saying she can be both Muslim and Christian."

Well, yes, I guess one can say that TIME will tell. But I'd wouldn't say "ONLY time will tell." I'd say that "IN time GOD will tell."

Matt 10:33 - is reciting (and believing!) the Shahada the same as denying?

How sad that no one told her that Christianity is also surrender to God. Perhaps if she'd spent more time reading the lives of the Saints...

Andrew said...

Muslims, helping them to understand that they can be Muslims and "followers of Jesus".

Islam flat out and explicity denies the incarnation. According to Islam, God neither begets or is begotten. You can not be a follower of Chrsit is you do not worship his as God the Son.

Perpetua said...

Hi Andrew,

I think your comment reveals why some say "follower of Jesus" rather than Christian or "follower of Christ". But if Redding can lay seeds within the Muslim community that gets them to be followers of Jesus, at least she will be getting them to read the New Testament, moving in the direction of Christianity. That will lay the seeds for others to convert them to be "followers of Christ".

The problem with Redding's current interpretation of her call is that she is taking Christians and leading them away from being "followers of Christ" and into being "followers of Jesus". That is going in the wrong direction. Redding needs to be moved away from Christian listeners and towards a Muslim audience.

Steven in Falls Church said...

Wow, 15 months before defrocking. The clergy of The Falls Church and Truro got only 6 months. I guess that shows TEC considers it more of a serious matter for a priest to join an orthodox branch of Anglicanism than one to abandon the Faith and become Muslim.

BabyBlue said...

I do think it also shows the compassion and mercy of the Bishop of Rhode Island.


Anonymous said...

"But if Redding can lay seeds within the Muslim community that gets them to be followers of Jesus, at least she will be getting them to read the New Testament, moving in the direction of Christianity."
Your idea sounds good on paper but a "small dose" of Jesus may just be enough to inoculate them against Jesus the Christ. I think they need the whole story up front. This is called Evangelism not desensitization. Dcn Dale

Perpetua said...

Hi Dcn Dale,

I have a different impression of how Muslims are converting to Christianity. I recently was reading the latest issue of barnabusaid and the article that starts on page 3 says that some of the converts have trouble gaining asylum because of insufficient knowledge of the Christian faith. But these are Christians Barnabus Fund is supporting and I don't think they are making a mistake.

Also I recently watched the DVD of More Than Dreams. I do believe the strong faith can be developed from a small seed.

Kay said...

"they can be Muslims and 'followers of Jesus'"

Muslims already believe Jesus was a Prophet of God, peace be upon him. They believe Mary was a virgin during the conception of Jesus, peace be upon him. There is an entire Chapter of the Qur'an dedicated to just Mary, mother of Jesus, peace be upon them both. Muslims do not reject any of the Prophets of God, with Muhammad (PBUH) being the last, and hundreds of thousands of messengers of God coming before him. Muslims already affirm that Jesus (PBUH) existed and that Jesus (PBUH) preached the Gospel, however, we fear it was corrupted by man.

The difference in theology between Christianity and Islam on the topic of Jesus (PBUH) include:

1. Muslims do not think God needs any intercessors to do His work -- i.e. God, Most High, does NOT need a son -- because this would imply that God, the Majesty of the Universe, is not All Powerful because he needs/depends on partners;

2. Muslims believe Jesus (PBUH) ascended into heaven living (i.e. did not die on the cross) and will come again at the "end of times";

3. That Jesus (PBUH) did not come because of "original sin". Muslims believe our natural state, fitra, is a perfect state of unity with God, and that sin only comes from actions that we personally do, not what others do;

4. And that using the logic to declare Jesus (PBUH) as a Son of God is the same logic as declaring Adam as a Son of God, so why isn't Adam given that same reverence? If God wants to make something Exists, all He says is Be and it will exist; that doesn't mean God, Most High, has sons, all it means is that He is the Creator of Everything.

I hope that clears some things up, at least in the Islamic theology department.


BabyBlue said...

Thank you, Kay, for posting. Jesus is the stumbling block - perhaps a reason why the Alpha Course starts right off with the question of "Who is Jesus." That is the starting place. Thanks again for posting!


BrotherSka said...

A new comparative analysis of the Bible and the Qur'an, titled Brothers Kept Apart, may be relevant to this dispute. It is perhaps the first comparative analysis of the Bible and the Qur’an, which assumes that both of the books are entirely correct. The study provides compelling evidence to show that there is harmony between the principal teachings of the Bible and the Qur’an, without compromising any of the teachings, or damaging the integrity of any of these verses in either book.

Therefore, the priest should allowed to remain until the results of the study have been investigated. See